New Manager

A framework for the future

Updated on: Apr 20, 2012
image caption

How Capgemini is preparing the ground to have half its global workforce in India.

It's been said more than once that half the global workforce for Paris-headquartered Capgemini will be in India in the next three years. When The New Manager met with Rajesh Padmanabhan, Head of HR for Capgemini India in March, 36,208 of around 1.22 lakh full-time employees were in India. For the company that opened its first development centre in Mumbai in 2001 with 250 engineers, it's been an exciting journey, spurred by acquisitions (Indigo, Kanbay, Thesys) and organic growth. Capgemini entered India through its global acquisition of Ernst & Young's Consulting Division in 2000, as Capgemini Ernst & Young.

While the company is understandably proud of its India story so far, it's the next phase of growth that Padmanabhan and his team are most excited about.

“India should clearly be 50 per cent of the global strength in three years — that is the vision. But what does it translate into from the people-story standpoint? It cannot just be about the numbers; it signifies much beyond that,” he explains.

Keeping India as the fulcrum of its global operations means creating capabilities here for the future. That's the job on hand. In tech HR-speak, it reads: more ‘capability building, sector depth, solutioning, innovations and sales transformations' out of India.

Focus on cost

In its annual report for 2011, Capgemini said it clocked revenues of euro 9,693 million, up 11.4 per cent from the year before. The headcount went up 10 per cent too, to almost 1.2 lakh. This included 44,468 offshore employees, of which 35,728 were in India (December 31, 2011).

The average salary increase onshore stood at 3 per cent, while offshore, it was 8.3 per cent. Of 32,713 people recruited in 2011, 49 per cent were offshore, and 12,462 were in India.

Pay change figures specific to India are not available. But what is stated is that the future growth will be in a business environment that demands focus on cost.

“We need to ensure that engine keeps going, but at the same time not lose sight of the cost. That is a relatively new challenge. And one should not shy away from that aspect,” admits Padmanabhan.

He notes that through the 90's, employers had the luxury of being able to experiment on several people aspects — without the cost factor looming in the foreground. That isn't the case now. Being prudent on cost, yet empathetic and caring as an employer, is the mandate. So would that mean cutting down on people costs? If yes, where?

“No, it doesn't mean cutting down on anything. We are talking about changes, like for example in learning and development. It is so very important for all of us, and particularly in a knowledge-intensive industry as this. But it would go more virtual, more towards the self route, towards being aided, rather than ensuring that people travel more and sit in classrooms. Those kinds of realistic business-aligned shifts on the people front will happen,” notes the HR head.

The company's brick-and-mortar training facility in La Fontaine in France is around, but efforts will be to move to a virtual university and, of course, a global curriculum.

He adds, “Learning is not just an employer's responsibility. It is an employee's responsibility too. The two hands have to come together to create a real learning roadmap.”

Building leadership

What HR at Capgemini terms as its biggest initiative right now is in the leadership space. A leadership effectiveness programme was piloted a year ago, and went live six months back.

It involves a set of diagnostics run across the Indian workforce, covering functional skills, cognitive abilities and group leadership competencies. The programme also involves one-to-one counselling with an external specialist partner.

What the talent brings to the table, their strengths that could be leveraged, areas of improvement they would need help on, and how to make them effective are being studied. Eleven competencies have been listed for a leader.

“Also, they could be effective today, but they need to be effective tomorrow to partner the India growth story. We're understanding how we could invest in them, how we could ready them. We need to ensure that they all walk up the trajectory together,” explains Padmanabhan.

The programme factors in that the leadership of the future would also include new talent coming on board. It is also unique in its scope, claims the HR head.

“Most of the group leadership or global leadership development architectures talk of some very generic stuff — how you make someone effective, team building, collaboration, improving the strategic vision, and so on. But our exercise is a mix of both functional capabilities and leadership,” he adds.

It's not a short programme, for sure. The cycle of diagnostics takes about three months and development another 18 months, before the output is visible. But that still allows for it to be ahead of just-in-time for Capgemini's three-year plan.

Small town feasibility

Of the 36,000-odd employees in India, over 20,700 are under technology services. Another 10,000-plus fall under financial services, with the BPO (business services) accounting for the rest (5,400-plus).

Mumbai houses most employees (over 11,000), followed by Bangalore (9,000) and Pune (5,500). Alongside Chennai, Hyderabad, NCR and Kolkata, on the list of cities with Capgemini offices is Salem in Tamil Nadu, which has around 550 people.

“We did a prototype in Salem and we have been very successful. We are going to replicate this particular model. It stems from the fact that we would not shy away from going to where talent exists,” Padmanabhan explains.

He is quick to underline that this does not mean a move away from the metros. With a headcount in India of (possibly) 60,000 to 70,000 people in three years, the rationale is to go to sources of talent, even if it means entering small towns with new facilities.

The spokesperson adds, “We are looking at Thiruvananthapuram and some more towns; possibly Coimbatore and Trichy. Those are all at a feasibility study stage.”

It's not just newer geographies that Capgemini is looking to for talent. As is the case with the rest of the IT industry, non-engineers (without an engineering degree) are finding favour too.

“The space for engineers is not shrinking, but it is opening up for non-engineers across the industry. For a lot of platforms today, we believe we can take non-engineers and train them. You get much better retention, engagement and sense of growth; and, of course, needless to say there is a cost difference as well. I think it meets a lot of objectives,” he adds.

Global capabilities from India

Globally, Padmanabhan estimates that there are 1,400 to 1,500 VPs, and this number is at around 90 in India currently. He points out that because of the business structure that involves offshore delivery centres and the like, this number might not be an accurate representation of the role played by Indians in the company's leadership. Having said that, he adds that the number is growing.

“It is growing, definitely. But the ambition is not just more VPs from India, because by itself that means nothing. We want to have more global roles out of India and that is what capability is all about,” he says.

Padmanabhan draws an analogy with the hospitality business, where a real ‘foodie' will want to have a word with the chef. Similarly, with IT services, the attempt is to ‘lift' the guys developing solutions at the back-end to be able to explain to the clients directly.

The fresher comes in at the level of software engineers and senior software engineers. Capgemini India claims to add as many if not more people at the levels of consultant and senior consultants.

“A lot of Indian IT pure-play would add people at the base of the pyramid; we have a mix model of adding both at the lateral and at the entry level. It is not just a cost game because if you are talking of the final customer value-add, you need to infuse talent at all levels,” he adds.

Across Capgemini India (including the high-churn BPO business), attrition hovered around 17 per cent last year. This is in line with the industry, says Padmanabhan. Like other high-growth sectors, a majority of those leaving IT services are ones with two to three years' experience.

“People do move, and what really moves them is not just compensation. It is about technology platforms, opportunities, engagements; and now it is shifting towards having a great sense of association and pride with the employer brand. The circle is getting completed,” surmises Padmanabhan.

So as the headcount grows, so will attempts to make Capgemini an employer brand of choice. The foundations are being laid now.

The leadership connect

HR put together a ‘leadership connect plan’ last year. The project was aimed at those lower down the organisational pyramid. What this large chunk of people thought of the company, its HR and promotion processes, or anything else, was based entirely on their interactions with their project manager.

“We put together the architecture to improve the connects, to ensure these people got more visibility, more information on what the company is thinking, and how this cascades down,” says the HR head.

That ‘connect’ project was a focus area last year. The employee engagement study at the end of the year showed people saying that the flow had ‘clearly improved’, according to the company. There was one more area where the employees wanted to see a shift. It was on performance management feedback and related issues. They wanted to know more about their performance — they didn’t just want to know whether they were ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They wanted to know the ‘why’ of it.

“We needed to be able to communicate with associates and tell them where they were (placed), what that meant for the team, the company, and the customer. If you are able to build that connect, they start relating with the larger organisation and how their role makes an impact. That’s an effort we made last year, and it has paid good dividends,” explains Padmanabhan.

Published on March 12, 2018

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